Question: How heavy is a glass of water?
Answer: It depends on how long you hold it.

It seems that stress is like that glass of water. You could probably hold it with your arm extended for a minute without much problem. If you hold it for an hour or more, there are predictable consequences such as aches and pains. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer we hold onto things, the heavier they become. The longer you carry stress, the more difficult it is to carry. Ultimately, it can become too much to bear.

The longer we carry a feeling that causes us stress, the greater the chance we’ll find ourselves increasingly focused on that past event – a workload that has become overwhelming; a problem relationship; or even a task that we have procrastinated on for so long that it is now overdue.

With each passing day the load feels heavier and our attention tends to focus on how heavy the load is rather than how to get the job done, solve the problem, mend the relationship or live a “normal” life.

As with the glass of water, we need to lay our burdens down and refresh ourselves. Once we’re refreshed, we can more easily meet life’s challenges another day.

Here are five thoughts on how to put that water down. Lord knows we could all use some relief…

  • 1. Don’t re-live your problem with every person you know. Think of your problem as a snowball. Every time you talk about it, it picks up more snow. You might add emotion (more snow) to get the person to ‘understand’ your perspective. The story might become exaggerated (more snow). That person may repeat the exaggerated story, which becomes a snowball with a life of its own rolling uncontrollably down the hill – never again to resemble the original problem (snowball) again.
  • 2. Put the problem down. Whatever the problem is, do your best to put it aside – at least for awhile. If work has you down, commit to leaving work problems at work. They will be there when you return tomorrow, so you don’t have to take them home with you. Give yourself and those around you a break from the pressures you are feeling. Before you pick up the problems the next day, check them for truth and reality. Make sure you only pick up the truth, not the expanded or exaggerated version. That in itself will help minimize the stress and will lighten your load.
  • 3. Ask for help. If you have a problem that feels too difficult to handle on your own, ask for help. If people feel you are truly reaching out for help, there will always be someone there to lend a hand. If you become known as one who just wants to talk about something and never acts on it, don’t be surprised if you are treated like the boy who cried wolf. Whether it is a technical problem a co-worker can help solve, or a relationship or moral problem better discussed with a therapist or Pastor, seek help to solve the problems that have been around for awhile or that seem to big to handle on your own.
  • 4. Just do it. Like the Nike slogan says, sometimes we just need to quit talking and start doing. Think about this: The job that takes the longest to finish is the one that never gets started… Procrastination is the source of much of our stress. Make a list of the things you need to act on. Set deadlines and share your plan with an ‘Accountability partner’ – someone you trust. Pick something right now that you have been putting off. Get started on it today. It could be as easy as picking up the phone and calling someone. It might be getting out the broom and tackling the garage. Whatever it is, get started.
  • 5. Let it go. Sometimes the best way to relieve the stress is to rid our lives from the painful memories. Forgive the person or persons who caused you pain to allow yourself to put down that glass of water you have been carrying for days, weeks or years. If too difficult to let go on your own, seek the help of someone to begin the process of putting aside the anger and hurt. It’s bound to have gotten heavy by now, and I know you’ll agree that it’s unfair for you to have carried that pain in the first place. Give yourself permission to be happy.

So, whatever burdens you’re carrying, put them down for a moment if you can. Relax; pick them up later after you’ve rested. Set out to find something of joy and wonder to focus on, even if it’s just overnight. I think you’ll find your problems will be easier to carry when you take a break from them and refresh yourself. Life is short. Share its pleasures with others. Do something to make someone happy! The beauty of that is that the joy will spill over onto you.